BACCHUS AND VENUS: Falling in Love with Wine

I’m in love with a one-year-old – and that’s the Bacchus and Venus Wine Bar in historic downtown Truckee. Athough this classy and beautiful wine bar opened only a year ago, the operation is smooth and the selection of wines to sample by the glass or buy by the bottle is very good. It is the second location for this wine bar; the first started in Sausalito seven years ago. Their concept fits with the Tahoe area perfectly!

When you walk in, you see a beautiful long curved cedar bar, with a modern fireplace nearby to take the chill off during snowy months. The wine country art that’s displayed on the walls is stylish and interesting.

Perhaps the décor is one reason that winemaker John Ross Storey felt so comfortable pouring his wines at one of the Bacchus & Venus Friday night winemaker events. Storey was a well known photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle since the mid-1970’s. Recently he turned his talents to producing an interesting selection of Rhone varietal wines. He is a self-taught winemaker who believes that, as with fine cuisine, you can craft fine wine through diligence and attention. He produces wine that is meant to go with food. Learn more about his wines at

Winemaker John Storey is a long-time friend of Bacchus & Venus. Jessica Norris, retail manager in at the wine bar in Truckee, confided that they have difficulty keeping his popular wines on their shelves as sell quickly. For this tasting, three wines were featured.

Fruit for the 2006 J.R. Storey Viognier originated in the Fralich Vineyard, Paso Robles. This is a petite vineyard farmed by Harry Fralich, “ a happy man in his 70’s who loves what he does,” said John Storey. “The grapes, which have great intensity and flavor, reflect that!” Grapes for this viognier were harvested in October 2006. The wine emerged from barrel fermentation with a somewhat tropical nuance, giving off layers of flavor – citrus, apricot, melon, pear. Storey recommends pairing it with oysters. 14.5% alcohol. $24/bottle

The 2007 Tempranillo has fruit from the Cielo Grande Vineyard, Paso Robles, as its basis. This vineyard, located in the little town of San Miguel, is a small three-acre block farmed by Norm & Karyn Grencius. The grapes contribute to an earthy old-world style wine, with an aroma of berries, and a softness on the palate. It was held in new and used French oak barrels for 9 months before bottling. Only 250 cases were produced. This wine is very food friendly and will not overtake the meal; suggested pairing is with pasta, mushrooms, barbeque. 13.5% alcohol. $20/bottle.

The 2006 Grenache originated in the Arroyo Grande vineyard which is located due east of Pismo Beach in San Luis Obispo County, near the Pacific Ocean. This vineyard is a very tiny block of 238 vines of Grenache that are dry farmed, and the fruit it produces has great depth and character. This wine demonstrates the essence of its terroir -- the Arroyo Grande soil is composed of fossilized oysters, gravel, sand, and limestone. The result on the nose is an intensity of blueberries and spice. After a cool two week fermentation, the wine was aged in 70% old and 30% new French oak barrels. 15.9% alcohol, $35/bottle.

John Storey is just one of the interesting winemakers and unique wines that are featured at Friday tastings by Bacchus & Venus, located at 10118 Donner Pass Road, Truckee. Their events schedule is posed at, or phone 530 550 9800. It’s worth a visit anytime, however, as their highly interesting wine tasting menu changes daily.

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© 2009 Barbara Keck

For more information on dining and the wide range of activities around Lake Tahoe, see the online version of The Tahoe Weekly. This article appeared in my column "It's Grape" in July 2009.


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